Top 8 Dramatic Performances from Comedic Actors

Sometimes comedy actors are so good at comedy that nobody can take them seriously in anything serious. But that doesn’t stop them from trying. Here are my top 8 dramatic performances from comedic actors.

8. Adam Sandler – Funny People


I recently rewatched this movie and was my inspiration for this post. Sandler is synonymous with comedy stemming from his stand up days, his Saturday Night Live career and his 90’s “dumb” comedy dominance.

Sandler has proven he has range, and does a great job in this Judd Apatow film about an successful but lonely and ageing comedy actor. Sandler brings this character to life, probably because on some level he is playing an alternate reality version of his own life.

7. Will Ferrell – Stranger Than Fiction


You might argue that Ferrell’s performance in Everything Must Go is a much better dramatic performance but I think Stranger Than Fiction does a much better job at showing his versatility as an actor.

In an offbeat comedy about a man who hears his life being narrated, Ferrell could have been forgiven for playing Harold Crick in his typical silly fashion, but he toned it down and brought a mundane character to life by making him likeable and quirky without being too over the top.

6. Steve Carell – Little Miss Sunshine


You know Carell as the goofy boss in the American version of The Office and the title character in The 40 Year Old Virgin. But since then Carell has done some truly dramatic roles.

He was nominated for an Oscar for his performance in Foxcatcher in 2014, but his really dramatic role that stood out for me was in Little Miss Sunshine as the weird uncle who tried to commit suicide and gets forced to go on a dysfunctional family road trip. Watch his performance in this versus his performance in Anchorman and you’d never tell it’s the same person.

5. Jim Carrey – Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind


Carrey has always been accused of being an over-actor and a contortionist of comedy. But he is no stranger to drama, with Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Truman Show being the most notable.

It is his performance in the former that I’ve singled out, because there is not a hint of his comedic “overacting”. Watch this film without seeing any of his 90’s comedies and you’d swear he could never have got his start on In Living Colour.

4. Robin Williams – Dead Poets Society


Very few comedians have an infectious persona. They’re all funny but Robin Williams was different. He was a comedic genius and if he couldn’t make you laugh, then there was something wrong with you. That’s how good he was.

Of course, he was a pretty good dramatic actor too. He was chilling and creepy in One Hour Photo, and he was wise in Good Will Hunting but he was a little bit of everything in Dead Poets Society. A truly unconventional teacher who taught his students about life, love and poetry. Robin Williams has been in a fair few dramatic roles but for me, Dead Poets Society is one if his best.

R.I.P O’ Captain my Captain.

3. Jonah Hill – Moneyball

Jonah Hill moneyball

Who would’ve thought the actor who played an obnoxious teenager who drew penises in his notebook would go on to work with some of the finest directors in some of the most dramatic roles of his career? Nobody. The answer is nobody.

Jonah Hill even went so far as being nominated for an Academy Award for his supporting role in Moneyball alongside Brad Pitt. Oh how far he’s come since grinding up against a girl who got her period in Superbad.

2. Ben Stiller – Permanent Midnight

Ben Stiller Permanent Midnight

Ok, I’m just going to put this out there. I was far too young the first time I watched Permanent Midnight. I remember watching it and being shocked as to what I was seeing. Stiller, renowned for comedic roles such Zoolander, plays a drug addicted comedy writer living in Los Angeles.

This is ironic since his performance is so dramatic and jarring that after you watch this movie you’d need to take a shower and then watch Dodgeball in order to be happy again.

1. Adam Sandler – Reign Over Me

Adam Sandler Reign Over me

There could only be one number one in my eyes. He appeared earlier on this list so I won’t go into why Sandler doing drama is such a polar opposite. Reign Over Me is a story about a former dentist who loses his family as a result of the 9/11 attacks and has an emotional breakdown.

I was blown away when I saw this performance, mostly because it was the most powerful and intense performance I had ever hoped to see from the actor who played The Waterboy.

Probably soon to be added to this list:

BONUS. Seth Rogen – Steve Jobs

Seth Rogen Steve Jobs

I haven’t seen this movie yet but Aaron Sorkin wrote the script and Fassbender plays Jobs so I’m already assuming it’s better than that recent Ashton Kutcher Jobs movie.

I can’t speak too early, especially since I’ve only seen the trailer but nevertheless, I really think Seth Rogen is going to churn out a stellar dramatic performance as Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple. If Jonah Hill can do drama, so can Rogen.

Check out the trailer below:

Which are some of your favourite dramatic performances from comedic actors? Let us know in the comments below.

Dean Ravell

Writer/director. Fascinated with all kinds of film and just wants to be part of the wonderful world of cinema.


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